While travelling recently on a train from Berlin, I found myself totally enamored with Scarlett Thomas’ The End of Mr. Y. It had been recommended while I was visiting Austria and I immediately snagged it when I saw a lone copy at a bookstore in Germany. I really couldn’t put it down. When I wasn’t reading it, it called to me.
The book is about a PhD student, Ariel Manto, who is researching a 19th Century writer, Thomas Lumas, with a mysterious background and an equally mysterious end. After a strange catastrophe that makes her university office uninhabitable, she takes a stroll into a used bookshop where she finds an incredibly rare copy of Lumas’ infamous book, The End of Mr. Y. The book-within-a-book is strange, to say the least, making Thomas’ novel strange in that best possible way.
The novel is filled with logistical conundrums, philosophical quandaries, thought experiments and other adventures that remind me a little of Being John Malkovich with a dash of Dark City. As someone who can barely add or subtract, the science and math involved never felt like a burden. In fact, it enhanced the mystery. Ariel was quick and intelligent and ever the wit–a fun character to accompany.
It’s been a while since I enjoyed a book so much. It was a disappointed when the novel came to a close!